Things have moved rapidly in the week since President Donald Trump dropped a series of heated tweets about the “caravan” of Central American migrants heading to the U.S. border. By Saturday, Texas had moved to send 250 National Guard troops to the border and Arizona is poised to send 150, both in response to the president’s call to send the troops to secure the border.
Defense Secretary James Mattis signed a memo approving the deployment of up to 4,000 National Guard troops.
Apparently angry that he is not getting the funding for the wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump is looking to highlight a threat to national security at the southern border:
I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2018
But he has also acknowledged that border crossings are at a 46-year-low and that Mexican authorities had succeeded in dispersing the group headed to the U.S. — many fleeing extreme violence in countries such as Honduras:
The Caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our Border. Because of the Trump Administrations actions, Border crossings are at a still UNACCEPTABLE 46 year low. Stop drugs!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 5, 2018
The response has been mostly one of bafflement as to why the Border Patrol — a force of 16,000 agents — needs help, at a time when illegal border crossings are at the lowest point since 1971.
Even in Texas, which has agreed to send troops to the border — unless he takes the steps to federalize the National Guard, President Trump does not have the authority to deploy them for such a domestic mission.
In an interview earlier this week, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo told NPR that his city — one that has 400 year-long history with Mexican communities across the border — is the safest city in the United States.
“And we already have a fence that was established under the Bush administration that runs through our city, so…from our standpoint, from a public safety standpoint, we’re in good shape,” said Margo.
The mayor also noted that Texas offered in-state tuition to Mexican nationals as part of an effort to create a middle class in the country, adding: “We’re a trading partner. It’s commerce. It’s family. It’s our entire culture. People don’t understand it until they come here.”
What’s clear is that President Trump is increasingly focusing on Mexico and migration as a major issue in his administration as he looks ahead to his 2020 campaign, rather than Syria and the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy. CBS reported that the directive orders federal prosecutors in border states to “put more emphasis on charging people with illegal entry, which has historically been treated as a misdemeanor offense for those with few or no previous encounters with border authorities.”